Thursday, May 1, 2014

Developing Ideas into Stories

Moonfish by SnowSkadi
----- Original Message -----
How do you develop an idea? How do you come up with the details behind stories? Do you get them from reading books? Do you get them from modern concepts? Or do they just come to you (if so, lucky you XD)? How do you develop the world in which it takes place? People or settings first? Do you include cults/religions/mass groups? How do you come up with these groups?
 -- Thoughtful Game-maker

In other words, what you want to know is:

How do you build a Story
from an Idea? 
Let's begin by breaking this huge pile of questions down to smaller, bite-sized pieces...

How do you develop an Idea?

I start with a Climactic Event.
My ideas may originate from anything at all; from a piece of music to a picture I saw on the 'net, but to make a Story from those ideas I start with What I want to Happen at the very heart of my story -- a central Climactic/Crisis Event. I then create a Plot Concept around it to make that event happen, and tie up loose ends after the event. 

Plot concept:
Act 1: What caused the Event.
Act 2: Climactic/Crises Event.
Act 3: What happened after.

Example: What I want to Happen.
  • I want the central climactic/crisis event to be an epic space battle between a Galactic Empire and a tribe of Space Privateers, and I want the characters to carry Swords. 

How do you come up with
the Details behind stories?
Do you get them from reading books? Do you get them from modern concepts? Or do they just come to you (if so, lucky you XD)?

The Details I come up with are mainly generated by reading stories similar to what I want to write, and researching what I need to know to make such an event plausible. This tends to reveal unexpected facts which often give me MORE ideas to add to the story.

How do you make something in a story Plausible? 
You use Facts to give its existence a Good Excuse.

Examples: Facts
  • Did you know that privateers had Written Permission from their home country to attack the ships of the countries their country didn't like --especially if there was a war going on-- as long as they turned over a certain percentage of 'booty' to their home country? (Ah ha! I now have a 'good excuse' to make the privateers the Good Guys!)
  • Did you know that Empires (the British Empire in particular,) routinely hired Merchants to be Privateers when they didn't have enough ships in their fleets BECAUSE Merchant ships were extremely well-armed specifically to fight off Pirates (other Privateers)? (Ah-HA! Now I have a good excuse to have a Privateers vs. Pirates battle!)
  • Did you know that those same empires that hired Privateers would also systematically destroy their Privateers once a treaty was signed with the country they had gone to war with, mainly because this was often a condition for a treaty to be signed? (Ah-HA! Now I have a 'good excuse' for Privateers to become pissed off at an empire!)
  • Did you know that using a projectile weapon of any sort on a spaceship spelled Instant Death should that projectile shoot through the outer hull? (Ah-AH! I know have a 'good excuse' to have all my characters carry Swords!

How do you develop
The World in which it takes place? 
People or Settings first? Do you include cults/religions/mass groups? How do you come up with these groups?
I begin with the World.
I always start with the SETTING, the World my characters will inhabit. I research everything to look for clues about what kind of cultures, politics, employment, social positions, religions, etc. would come into play in such a story because a character's culture and civilization will be what makes each character who they are -- the same way that your culture and civilization made you who you are.

Examples: Space, Empires, and Privateers.
  • How do Empires happen, and how are they governed?
  • Why would Privateers would be hired?
  • Under what conditions would Privateers be attacked by an Empire?
  • What are the conditions for living in space?
  • What kinds of space travel would I need, (Faster-than-light? Folding space? Jump-gates...?) and can they be adapted to what I want to do?
  • What kind of weapons would a spaceship have?
  • How would a space battle be conducted?

Then Characters.
Once I have a good grasp of the cultures my characters would inhabit, then I decide what kind of characteristics and backgrounds the Characters would need to make my Event happen -- or Not happen.

Examples: Characters.
  • Why would people (or a whole family) become privateers?
  • Why would someone hate the empire?
  • Why would someone hate privateers?
  • What kind of training would be needed to fight in space?
  • If I make the main character a neutral party, where would such a character come from, and why would they have such a mindset?

And that's how I build a Story from an Idea.

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